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Wood balconies still a hazard at Barking's Samuel Garside House four months after blaze, says independent report

PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 October 2019

Some of the building's wood facade has been removed, but the structural parts remain, pending a planning application. Picture: Luke Acton.

Some of the building's wood facade has been removed, but the structural parts remain, pending a planning application. Picture: Luke Acton.

Archant

The council's independent report into the building devastated by the Barking fire has added to many of the worries already held by the people who lived there.

The inspector found no evidence the timber on Samuel Garside House has been made fire-resistant in any way and added it remains "a significant risk to the spread of fire".

The block of flats in De Pass Gardens, Barking, caught fire on June 9, destroying 20 homes. Dramatic pictures showed the fire taking hold on the wood on the side of the building. A fire brigade spokeswoman said it hasn't pinned down what started the blaze.

While the non-structural timber has been removed, structural timber remains. A planning application is needed to remove the rest of the wood. The council has received that application, but the authority said architects haven't provided enough information for it to move the process forward.

Along with the wood, the report identified six hazards of varying degrees. All of them were category two risks - the less serious rating - though the council can still take enforcement action to make sure they're addressed. The risks range from concerns with the fire alarms to cracks in the walls.

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Council leader Darren Rodwell said failure to address the issues in the October 18 report would force the authority to take action.

"Needless to say, we will be demanding answers and swift action from the building owners and managing agents next week and remain committed to getting the answers residents so desperately need," he added.

One of the biggest worries is a myriad of issues with the fire doors in the building, including poorly functioning smoke seals and damage to the doors themselves.

The inspector was also concerned about the fire doors going into the flats and recommended the council examine every one of them.

Some fire brigade-approved measures are already in place to manage the risks. Fire wardens are at the block 24/7 and the building's managers have put in "protective tunnels" at exit doors.

A spokesman for HomeGround, which represents building owner Adriatic Land, said: "A full independent Fire Risk Assessment and a comprehensive structural survey have been carried out at Samuel Garside House. A number of mitigating measures and remedial works have already been implemented to ensure the building is completely safe for residents to return home."

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